When Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, and the other Founding Fathers gathered for the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, their hopes for a lasting republic were tempered by the realistic caution of men of the world. When their historic work was done, and they emerged from Independence Hall after creating the framework for the world's first democratic republic, a lady in the crowd asked Franklin if the delegates had opted for a monarchy or a republic. He famously responded, "A republic, madame, if you can keep it." Franklin and his illustrious colleagues understood that the preservation of the liberty and freedom they sought to ensure in the Constitution was by no means a foregone conclusion.
For two centuries, our Nation credibly fulfilled the cautious expectations of the Framers. Through civil wars, world wars, depressions, the New Deal, the civil rights upheavals, and countless other crises, the basic freedoms of American citizens have heretofore been faithfully preserved. But as we lurch forward into the darker days of the 21st century, Benjamin Franklin's cautious warning about the preservation of a free republic has been strikingly justified on the very streets of Philadelphia where he uttered it. And the suppression of constitutional freedoms occurring there is merely an especially egregious example of a menacing trend occurring at all levels of government in the era of Obama.
An arrogant, anti-constitutional tyrant today runs roughshod over the liberties of the people of Philadelphia in the very shadow of Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. His name is Michael Nutter, the city's Democratic mayor, and, if there were a scintilla of spirit left in the citizenry, or if there were any justice left in our legal system, he would be quickly called to account for his race-based assault on First Amendment freedoms. His recent attempt to censor a free press is a glaring affront to the Constitution that was conceived in the city that he misrules today. Regretfully, the spirit of Philadelphia Freedom appears to have withered in that supine city, and Nutter is likely to bluster on with impunity.Earlier this March, the liberal Philadelphia Magazine published a relatively timid and euphemistic article about the cowed and uncomfortable status of whites in certain sections of Philadelphia, entitled "Being White in Philadelphia." This was no hard-nosed, combative argument on race issues like the ones that appear in conservative publications or blogs like mine (see, e.g., "Two Generations of Racial Preference," on www.splashingrocks.blogspot.com). It simply related, with all the politically correct euphemisms, various situations in which white Philadelphians had found it increasingly uncomfortable to be confronted with distrust, hostility, or worse by black fellow Philadelphians. The atmosphere portrayed in the article may help explain the 32% decline in Philadelphia's non-Hispanic white population between 1990 and 2010.
Nutter responded to the article in a manner that might be expected of an authoritarian bully in a Third World dictatorship. He furiously declared that this pallid and understated depiction of uneasy race relations in Philadelphia was "disgusting" and offended black sensitivity to the point of possible retaliation. Continuing in a vein that would be laughable were it not darkly threatening, Nutter contended that the article fell beyond the protections of the First Amendment because it might constitute "incitement to extreme action." He was particularly disturbed that the article focused on the views of white people on the city's troublesome racial issues. Of course that aspect of the article was hardly surprising, since the very point of the piece was to bring those often suppressed views into the open.
But Nutter was not content to merely attack the article and leave it at that. Nutter called upon the ironically named Philadelphia Human Rights Commission (PHRC) to investigate the Philadelphia Magazine, with possible sanctions to follow, for having the temerity to publish an article expressing a white point of view on race issues. (This is the same Big Brother Commission that was unleashed against the frustrated owner of Philly's legendary "Geno's Steaks," Nick Taliaferro, for having the similar audacity to post a sign in his popular cheese steak shop asking customers to "please order in English.") The Commission's executive director promptly fell in line with Nutter's unconstitutional assault, saying that the Commission shared Nutter's concerns about the article and denouncing its alleged perpetuation of harmful stereotypes. In short, verdict first, investigation to follow.In a sane and civil American city, the newspapers, TV stations, and concerned citizens would have raised a furious outcry against the mayor's blatant threat to the magazine's freedom of speech and press. Instead, in the upside-down world that is Philadelphia, the anger was directed against the victims. The magazine's editor and the article's author soon found themselves placed on the defensive at a public forum that bore an eerie resemblance to the kangaroo courts that were once used to punish deviation from the Party Line in Maoist China. Rather than vigorously standing behind his writer and indignantly asserting the magazine's First Amendment rights against government intimidation, the magazine's editor sheepishly confessed he was sorry if the article offended anyone. He was also forced to respond to the crowd's angry charges concerning the magazine's alleged lack of diversity and other crimes of racial insensitivity. In other words, the victims of the mayor's unconstitutional oppression were subjected to a form of public re-education reminiscent of Mao's proletarian cultural revolution, while the mayor himself could trample on with the smugness of those who enjoy the impunity of one-party urban rule.
This sorry episode was not the first time that Mayor Nutter has demonstrated his contempt for the liberties and beliefs of those who do not fall in line with the leftist policies of the Philadelphia Democrats and President Obama.During his campaign for mayor, Nutter directed his political antagonism against the Boy Scouts of America and their traditional moral values. In a televised debate, he confirmed that he would use the mayor's powers to punish the local Scouts organization for adhering to the BSA's established policy of excluding practicing homosexuals from membership and leadership positions. Falsely depicting a policy designed to protect the morals of young Boy Scouts as a form of unlawful discrimination, Nutter supported a retaliatory measure that would effectively evict the Boy Scouts organization from city-owned land it had rented since 1928 by raising their rent from a $1 token payment to $200,000. Nutter has pursued his anti-Boy Scout position as mayor, but a federal court has thus far upheld the Scouts' lease rights.
More recently, Nutter has demonstrated his antagonism for the Second Amendment and the right to keep and bear arms. He is a determined advocate of extreme gun control measures. In his role as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, he has not only advocated bans on so-called assault weapons and even modest capacity magazines and mandatory background checks on private gun sales, but has urged the government to adopt an even more expansive anti-gun regime called the "Sandy Hook Principles." This Orwellian program seeks to frustrate citizen access to firearms by imposing harsh economic sanctions against the companies who manufacture and sell guns and ammunition if they do not comply with a list of 20 crippling gun control directives. The directives not only target companies that sell government-disfavored firearms but also would force companies to, among other things, conduct universal background checks, adopt ammunition-tracking systems, and promote the use of biometric locks on guns. Non-compliant companies would be subject to "economic divestment" at the hands of the government. In short, Nutter's disdain for the First Amendment appears to be rivaled by his contempt for the Second.Moreover, in keeping with his hostility to free speech by those who do not share his views, Nutter furiously attacked the National Rifle Association when it ran an advertisement exposing President Obama's hypocrisy in opposing the NRA's proposal for armed protection for schools while Obama's daughters enjoy a phalanx of protection that would put Caesar's Praetorian Guard to shame. Nutter demanded that the NRA ad "should be removed immediately."
These and other actions and policies had already given a hint of Mayor Nutter's tyrannical tendencies. But whatever doubts may have lingered on that score have been dispelled by his effort to suppress protected speech through means of race-related intimidation. He does not want white persons speaking their minds on racial issues.Not so long ago, Obama's black Attorney General, Eric Holder, declared that we were a "nation of cowards" for not having "the guts" to talk about race issues. The Philadelphia Magazine article attacked by Nutter was a conscientious attempt to discuss the very race issues that Holder insisted Americans must have the courage to confront. But because Nutter considers the white perspective on these issues "disgusting," he not only seeks to suppress the publication of such views by official condemnation, but enlists a government commission to investigate and possibly sanction those who dare to express them.
The Department of Justice has the authority and responsibility to sue state and local governments that use their power to violate the constitutional rights of citizens. Under Holder, that authority has been misused to sue conscientious officers like the hard-charging Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, Joe Arpaio. DOJ has sued Arpaio and Maricopa County for merely attempting to do what Holder and the rest of the Federal Government refuse to do – enforce the immigration laws against massive illegal immigration. The Government's suit even makes the patently absurd allegation that Maricopa County and Sheriff Arpaio have violated the First Amendment in responding to efforts to undermine their legitimate enforcement efforts by illegal aliens and their supporters.Holder and his minions should make better use of their time, and our tax dollars, by dropping their politicized claims against Arpaio and actually filing a meritorious civil rights action against Mayor Nutter and the PHRC. Not only does Nutter's effort to employ the PHRC in a campaign against a magazine and an author infringe freedom of speech and press, but, because the persecution is based upon the racial viewpoint of the article, it also violates the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of equal protection under the law. But expecting even-handed law enforcement from the Justice Department of Obama and Holder -- especially against their political allies like Mayor Nutter -- is utterly delusional. Just ask the voters who vainly requested the Justice Department to enforce the Voting Rights Act against blatant voter intimidation at the polls in Philadelphia by the New Black Panther Party in the 2008 presidential election. In the age of Obama, Holder, and Nutter, Philadelphia Freedom is not for everybody.